I was in two minds about going to see comedian and enfant terrible, Russell Brand. When I first discovered Brand a few years back, the “I’m-from-people-and-will-fight-for-the-people”, long-haired, hippie-bearded entertainer with the Essex accent put a fresh spin on the British tradition of dry, introspective comedy.
Over the past year or so, however, Brand’s managed to come across as a bit of a tosser really, making a right arse of himself in the media. The standout has to be an interview he did with Channel 4 news outside 10 Downing Street. Brand had joined a protest of residents from a housing estate that was due to be demolished. Against the background of massive rental inflation in London, Brand floundered when challenged that he, as a rich celebrity, is part of the problem, able to pay for unaffordable property. When he was accused of hypocrisy, and couldn’t defend himself, I concurred.
And yet last night, kind of against my better judgement, I was laughing. Brand is performing three shows in Johannesburg (at Monte Casino on 29 September, 1 October and 2 October) and one in Cape Town (3 October at Grand West Casino) as part of his Trew World Order tour. I was prepared to quizzically raise my brows, to roll my eyes, and write a piece about ego, weak humour, and how ignorant celebrities should just stay out of politics.
Brand walked on stage with his signature scruffy, Jesus-hair, skinny jeans, sneakers, and cut-off vest, arms displaying slightly faded tattoos. He began with the obligatory references to local events, quipping about the national crime stats that were released yesterday: “You’re not an audience. You’re survivors!”
The show is mostly about Brand’s failures over the past couple of years. He shows the audience a serious of video clips of cringeworthy interviews and inserts he’s done, mocking himself, using his past mistakes as fodder for jokes. It can’t be easy, because some of the incidents are really humiliating. Others are just ridiculous, like a video by a conspiracy theorist accusing Brand of being part of the Illuminati. In between the sketches, Brand throws in some slightly pretentious philosophical and political lines about individualism, freedom (according to him Nelson Mandela was “the world’s last secular saint”), capitalism, and the environment.
Brand is cocky, and in his own words, narcissistic (an inherent trait of the celebrity), but at the same time incredibly and fabulously self-deprecating, as only the English can be. He charmed the audience, especially those of the female persuasion. I hate to admit it but despite the obvious hip thrusts and cock jokes, there is something stupidly attractive about him.
By the way, do not miss the opening act by street poet, Mr Gee. His simple rhymes about current affairs are funny and beautiful.
JOHANNESBURG – Teatro at Montecasino
Tuesday, 29 September 2015 at 8pm
Thursday, 01 October 2015 at 8pm
Friday, 02 October 2015 at 8pm
R 350, R450, R550, R650
CAPE TOWN – Grand Arena, GrandWest
Saturday, 03 October 2015 @ 8pm